Posts tagged sustainability

Stressed out? Overworked? Maybe it’s Affluenza

John de Graaf, executive director of Take Back Your Time – www.timeday.org – will speak next Monday, April 13 at the University of Iowa about Time and Sustainability. More about his upcoming Iowa City presentation is in the Tuesday, April 7, edition of  The Gazette. In the meantime, de Graaf – a filmmaker and co-author of “Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic” sent me the following on his observations about health care, which I thought were worth sharing:

THINKING DIFFERENTLY ABOUT HEALTH CARE

 

By John de Graaf

 

There’s a problem with today’s health care debate.  It’s way too focused on health care.  How to fix the health care delivery system.  How to insure everybody.  And it’s true that the American health care system is on life-support.  Priced at nearly $8,000 a year per American, and soon to be 20% of our GDP, it’s more expensive by 40-60% than health care systems in any other industrial country and totals nearly half the health care budget of the entire world.  Yet it leaves 47 million Americans uncovered by health insurance and it produces results that are arguably the worst in any of the wealthy nations of the world. 

 

According to the CIA, Americans rank 46th in life expectancy, a bit above Albania.  After age 50, they are nearly twice as likely as western Europeans to suffer chronic illnesses like heart disease, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.  Even in the hospital, US patients face unusual dangers.  More than 100,000 of them die each year from “healthcare” itself–errors or infections during treatment.  So the system is broken.  But fixing it will require a far more holistic approach than has been discussed in the health care debate.

 

HEALTH CARE: THE ROOF OF THE HOUSE

 

Let’s consider American health as a house.  Health care is the roof, the final protection against illness.  In our case, it’s an expensive roof, gold plated yet with 47 million holes. 

In some ways—vaccinations, for example—it’s a preventive system, but mostly it’s sickness care.  

 

In other industrial countries, the roof is a simpler affair, asphalt shingles on a fiberglass mat but with hardly any leaks.  Their health care systems rely more on prevention; less on high tech treatment.  Yet the people in the house below live longer, healthier lives.  That’s because in those other countries, the foundation and the walls of the house are stronger, with fewer cracks to let in the cold.

 

THE FOUNDATION

 

Let’s start with the foundation.  That’s the head start toward health that children in most other rich countries receive.  There’s a stronger focus on pre-natal care, for example.  In part because of this, infant mortality in all other industrial countries is lower than in the United States, which ranks 42nd in the world, again according to the CIA.  Moreover, fewer mothers die in childbirth in those countries.  Here, the US ranks a comparatively poor 40th in the world  Maternal mortality rates for poor and African-American mothers are particularly high.  Every other rich country does better. 

 

Moreover, in every country in the world except, believe it or not, the United States, Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea, mothers are guaranteed paid time off from work to take care of newborns.  In most rich countries, fathers also receive paid time off to bond with young children.  In many cases, such “family leave” extends for up to a year or more.  In the US, by contrast, parents often return to work when children are only a few weeks old. 

 

Paid family leave, and the parental bonding it ensures, pays off in terms of children’s health—fewer childhood illnesses, fewer problems with attention-deficit disorder, less obesity, easier socialization, better readiness to learn.  Most countries find that such a taxpayer investment in early childhood results in lower health and other costs as children grow up.  In Canada, where paid parental leave—the government pays 55% of the stay-at-home parent’s salary—was recently increased from six months to a year, health care costs for children have dropped, leading to interest in extending the leave to 18 months.

 

A 2007 UNICEF study ranked the United States 20th out of 21 rich nations regarding children’s welfare.  The foundation of our “health house” is weak.  The rich enjoy a house with a marble floor, and our middle class, a wooden one.  Poor Americans, far less likely to be insured, have a dirt floor, with rain leaking through the holes in the roof and puddling up in the corners.

 

WALL NUMBER ONE—LIFESTYLE

 

If Democrats talk almost exclusively about universal health care as the solution to our health problems, Republicans tend to focus on wall number one—lifestyle choices.  It’s a matter of personal responsibility, they say.  Americans should simply stop smoking, eat properly, avoid over-eating, and excessive alcohol consumption, exercise regularly and sleep enough.  And, the conservatives argue, they don’t need government to do this.  Of course, this is sensible advice.  Citizens of other rich countries generally exercise and sleep more than we do.  And they don’t eat as much so they are less likely to be obese.

 

But it isn’t all a matter of personal responsibility.  Policy changes would help here as well.  Our tax system subsidizes producers of sugars and fats and our marketing system relentlessly advertises fast, unhealthy foods.  At the same time, Americans tend to work longer hours than people in other rich countries.  Europeans, for example, work 300-350 fewer hours each year on average.  Laws guarantee them sufficient time off, including a minimum of four weeks of paid vacation a year, and shorter weekly working hours.  This leaves them more time to select foods carefully, eat more slowly—and, as a result, eat less—while exercising and sleeping more.  Laws reducing work time have the effect of making them healthier.

 

WALL NUMBER TWO—STRESS-RELIEF

 

It’s no secret in the field of public health that stress is a killer.  Sudden bursts of adrenaline worked to protect our early human ancestors against attack by savage beasts.  But continued adrenaline response to the chronic stress of modern life leads to heart problems, obesity, hypertension and weakened immune systems.  Several factors make American life particularly stressful.  We are among the most competitive of wealthy capitalist countries and have the widest gap between rich and poor.  Fewer people on top; more on the bottom.  Studies clearly show that whether it’s humans or baboons, the lower your status, the higher your stress levels.  More economically egalitarian societies, like Sweden or Japan, for example, are clearly less stressful and more healthy.

 

Stress is also the result of insecurity.  As the American social safety net has been gutted in recent years (with more of us losing health and pension benefits, for example) and job protections have been reduced, life in America is riskier than it used to be.  It is far more insecure than in other rich countries, where strong social safety nets remain in place.  Danes, for example, can be fired as easily as Americans, but they receive generous unemployment benefits, job training and government jobs if they are unable to find a position in the private sector.  Insecurity also leads to anxiety, a mental illness.  American rates of anxiety are double or triple those in western European countries.  Mental illness negatively impacts physical health even further.  Europeans say their social safety net gives them a feeling of peace of mind.  It’s certainly good for their health.

 

Finally, stress is also the result of time pressures and overwork, which are far more common in the US than in other rich countries.  More breaks from a stressful workplace are seen by Europeans as yet another way to improve health.  It’s unlikely that we will be able to quickly change the levels of hierarchy and inequality in the US, or that our safety net will be suddenly strengthened.  But policies offering shorter work time and longer vacations, clear stress reducers, could be enacted more easily and quickly, and they should be.

 

WALL NUMBER THREE—SOCIAL CONNECTION

 

It’s another clear understanding in the field of public health that social connection strengthens immune systems and improves physical well-being.  In fact, connecting with others may be the most important single thing we can do to be healthier.  On the other hand, one of the worst things you can do for your health is to be lonesome.  Yet America is an increasingly lonely country.  More and more people, and especially older Americans,  live alone, far more than in other rich countries.  A recent study found that the average American has only two close friends he or she can turn to.  A quarter of us have none at all.  Loneliness quickly turns into depression.  As with anxiety, Americans are two to three times as likely to suffer from depression as western Europeans.  Depression further weakens immune systems and lowers physical health outcomes. 

 

A National Institutes of Health study comparing frequency of chronic illness in the United States and the United Kingdom found that Americans are nearly twice as likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes and hypertension in old age.  Such diseases account of a huge part of our healthcare costs. The study controlled for age, race, income and gender differences and found, surprisingly, that poor Britons are as healthy as rich Americans. The study didn’t find that eating fish and chips makes you healthier. The major reasons for the difference were all related to the fact that the British had more security and more free time, which they used to exercise more, but especially to socialize more.  Here again, public policies giving workers more time off the job would improve health, in this case, by allowing Americans more time to spend with family and friends.  Clearly, this would also strengthen families and communities.

 

WALL NUMBER FOUR—A SAFE ENVIRONMENT

 

Americans, according to the UNICEF study of children’s welfare, rank at the bottom in child safety, with the highest rates of accidents among children.  Part of this is due to time pressure on American parents which leaves them less able to supervise their children.  Other studies show extremely high rates of accidents in the workplace compared to other nations.  Preventable death rates in the US, including deaths from automobile accidents, are the highest among industrial countries.  Moreover, on average, Americans breathe in air pollution at double the levels of western Europe.  The European Union also has stricter controls on the release of  toxic chemicals into the environment. 

 

Finally, and this is no small matter, every other industrial country guarantees its workers paid time off from work when they are sick; only the US does not—half of American workers get no paid sick days.  In many other countries, as much as a month of leave is allowed.  These countries know that without paid time off, workers will come to work sick, as many American workers do.  They will get others sick and stay sick longer, often requiring more expensive treatment for their illnesses.  This is not rocket science.  Most Americans get this immediately.  That is why more than 80% of them favor a law that would guarantee paid sick days for workers.

 

WHAT CAN WE DO TO IMPROVE OUR HEALTH?

 

To achieve better health outcomes, Americans must begin to see health as a holistic matter, like the house I describe.  Right now that house has a foundation that is part marble, part rotting wood and part dirt.  It has four walls that are a mixture of teak, balsa wood and bamboo, all of them in sorry shape.  And finally, it has a gilded roof with millions of holes.

 

It is not enough to talk of making the roof all gold and eliminating the holes, though we do need to eliminate the holes.  We need to eliminate the gold as well, taking the profit and costly complexity from the system and expanding a program like Medicare to cover everyone, potentially at less cost.  Such a system must rely more on preventive methods rather than high tech cures. 

 

But fixing the roof is only a first step.  If we also pay attention to the foundation and the walls, we can assure better outcomes and probably, at lower cost, as is the case in other rich nations.  We can:

 

Strengthen the foundation by improving pre-natal care and providing at least three months or more of paid leave to all parents of babies or very young children.  Make the Family and Medical Leave Act a paid provision and extend it to all workers.

 

Strengthen the wall of lifestyle by encouraging consumption of whole grains and vegetables, teaching children the value of eating healthy foods, eliminating subsidies to the purveyors of sugars and fats, and especially, reducing working hours to give Americans more time for exercise, sleep and healthy eating. 

 

Strengthen the wall of stress relief by re-instituting tax policies that narrow the gap between rich and poor, re-building our social safety net and adopting policies like paid vacation time (the US is the only industrial nation without a law guaranteeing paid vacations) that can assure Americans periodic relief from the stress of our hyper-competitive and long-hour workplaces.  We must also provide more resources for the early identification and treatment of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

 

Strengthen the wall of connection by  reducing working time and by stimulating, through programs like national service, greater volunteer involvement with our neighbors and communities.

 

Strengthen the wall of safety by improving OSHA and other protections for workers, building more pedestrian and bicycle friendly cities, and regaining the environmental zeal of the early 1970s, which led to much cleaner water and air for all Americans.  Pass the Healthy Families Act, guaranteeing seven paid sick days to American workers.

 

Most of these changes are taken for granted in other nations.  All of them will make the United States healthier, and almost certainly at less cost than our current system.  Improving our health outcomes is less a matter of better science and more money than of political will and an ability to see the connections between things.

 

Many business leaders (though certainly not all!) will object to these ideas on the grounds that they will cost too much and make us less competitive in the world economy.  But the cost of poor health will be far greater than the price tag for such reforms.  If there is one thing more than any other which makes it harder for American businesses to compete, it’s the escalating cost of health care.  Health care payments make the cost of producing an automobile thousands of dollars more expensive in the United States than in Canada, for example, and countries with strong social safety nets are among the most competitive in the world.

 

We can do better.  We owe it to ourselves and our children to make these changes without delay.

 

 

John de Graaf is a documentary filmmaker, Executive Director of Take Back Your Time (www.timeday.org) and co-author of Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic.

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Black & Gold going green

This just came out today – the University of Iowa will begin offering a new Certificate in Sustainability in Fall 2009:

Gone are the days when the environment was solely the purview of biologists, climatologists and engineers. If tomorrow’s world is truly going to be greener, teachers, dental assistants, grassroots advocates, government leaders and even artists must be prepared to contribute to sustainable systems and practices.

To help put students on a path toward becoming effective leaders and agents of change for sustainability in whatever professional setting they choose, the University of Iowa will begin offering a new Certificate in Sustainability in fall 2009. The program will allow students to augment their majors and minors with a certificate that promotes an integrated understanding of human and environmental systems and the complex interactions between them.

To meet the certificate’s requirements, students must complete 24 semester hours of course work that includes three introductory core courses, four electives from a designated list and one project course. Courses already required as part of a student’s major or minor fields of study may count toward the certificate. Students must also maintain at least a 2.00 grade point average.

“The need for sustainable practices, awareness and ingenuity is going to grow exponentially in the coming years as the world manages diminishing resources and humanity learns how to better live within its means,” UI President Sally Mason said. “Energy, society, culture, economics, construction and public policy all will be impacted. That’s why I’m thrilled that the University of Iowa has taken this important step toward providing our students with the tools and academic framework to couple sustainability with whatever fields of study they choose.”

The required courses include “Introduction to Sustainability,” “Introduction to Environmental Science” and “Contemporary Environmental Issues.” For their electives students may select from a wide array of courses offered across the disciplines, from “Glacial and Pleistocene Geology” and “Wetlands: Function, Geography and Management” to “History and Environment in Africa” and “Planning Livable Cities.”

The required projects will address advanced problems in design, sustainability and education, multimedia writing on the topic of a green economy and other relevant issues. One option, for example, is a course offered through the UI College of Engineering’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department that provides students the opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams to propose solutions to problems faced by people in the developing world. Students study and develop the appropriate technologies required to improve water and sanitation, energy, housing, and health. 

Barbara Eckstein, an associate provost and professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, chaired a task force of faculty and staff from eight colleges that developed the certificate, which she said is accessible to any undergraduate student.

“Whatever students’ career goals, understanding the ties that bind economic development, environmental protection, and equity is key to their future,” Eckstein said.

An interdisciplinary advisory board will oversee the certificate’s implementation. The board members are Jim Throgmorton, a professor in Urban and Regional Planning; Laura Rigal, an associate professor in the Department of English with a joint appointment in American Studies; Mark Reagan, a professor of igneous petrology and geochemistry in the CLAS Department of Geoscience; Christy Moroye, an assistant professor in the College of Education’s Department of Teaching and Learning; and Craig Just, adjunct assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, associate research scientist at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering and coordinator of sustainability programs in the UI College of Engineering.

The certificate is just one of many ways in which the university is strengthening its commitment to sustainability as outlined by Mason in an Earth Day address last year. Despite the flood of 2008 and the ongoing recovery, as well as the significant budget challenges presented by the downturn in the national economy, the university has made important strides toward developing a greener campus and curriculum.

Soon after her address, Mason established a Sustainability Steering Committee and in November appointed Liz Christiansen the university’s first director of sustainability. Already, the UI diverts about 30 percent of its general waste stream through recycling practices. And the UI is ahead of schedule in its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent by 2010, as required by its membership in the Chicago Climate Exchange, of which the UI was an early member.

In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lauded the UI for reducing carbon emissions at its power plant by using one system to generate both heat and energy, saving the equivalent amount of carbon stored by 11,232 acres of pine forests for one year or the emissions from 8,046 passenger vehicles. The plant burns oat hulls to reduce its reliance on coal by 20 percent and may serve as a model for a new power plant under consideration that could eventually provide 100 percent renewable energy at the Oakdale campus.

UI faculty and students are getting in on the act, too. In February, student leaders and the UI Environmental Coalition presented a series of sustainability panels as part of the National Teach-In on Global Warming 2009. And student members of the UI College of Engineering’s chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, working with faculty advisor Craig Just, recently won a first-place award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for designing a $5, hand-held device to sanitize water and potentially save lives in developing countries.

Greg Carmichael, professor of chemical and biochemical engineering in the UI College of Engineering, is using a $750,000 NASA grant to examine the atmosphere above the Arctic — a natural receptor of smoke and forest fire pollution from northern Europe, Asia and North America that creates a visible arctic haze. And Larry Weber, director of the UI’s world renowned IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering research unit, is using the flood of 2008 as an opportunity to develop better ways to predict future flooding, and help communities live more sustainably near volatile waterways.

Even economic development should benefit from the UI’s commitment to sustainability. The UI College of Engineering is involved with the newly launched Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development (IAWIND), a partnership among the regents universities, community colleges, industry, and the Iowa Department of Economic Development, designed to support the state’s efforts to attract and nurture wind energy and related industries in order to become the nation’s leader in alternate energy technologies.

For more information on the plan and other UI energy conservation efforts visit http://energy.uiowa.edu/

 

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Deconstruction vs. demolition: a green way to handle flooded homes?

Michael Richards, president of the Oakhill/Jackson Neighborhood Association, has been working on a “Good Jobs/Green Garages” effort since the floods. Some of that is detailed in an article in the Sunday, March 8, 2009, issue of the Gazette:

 

http://tinyurl.com/bdn94m

 

Here is more from Michael about those efforts:

 

   “We have added a very important layer of innovation and action to Good Jobs/Green Garages:

   As Neighborhood Assn. President, I have been approached by flooded residents in their 70s and 80s that do not have the time, energy or financing to Rehab/Rebuild.   We are pairing these elderly residents with former Metro High students that are now in their mid twenties, energetic, employed and ready to engage limited money with “sweat equity” to gain first time home ownership by rehab and retrofit of these flooded homes they are purchasing from the above noted elderly flood victims.  We have one rehab/retrofit  Next Generation Home Ownership project already underway in Oakhill Jackson.   We have also paired an elderly resident/ and a young new homeowner in Time Check to work with  this model of community recovery.

   My goal is this:  Create the working model. Then, if the City Government wants to get on board, fine, if not, well, we’ll keep working away to rebuild this city one step at a time from the ground up.”

 

 

   From Cindy, again: Rod Scott, who is also featured in the Gazette article, realizes not every flooded home can be saved. But he questions why so many that could be rebuilt are being torn down. He asks if it’s because the city is encouraging demolition, especially of homes in modest-income neighborhoods. Rod, who is president of the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance, notes that many of the homes are structurally sound. “They’re just flooded buildings,” he said. “They can be cleaned up and rebuilt.”

 

 

   Cedar Rapids City Council member  Tom Podzimek added to the city’s discussion of sustainability when it comes to rebuilding from the floods in one area that hit home. For city gardeners, it might not be a popular idea, but a suggestion that has been proposed in the past would be to sell land that has city gardens – presumably the Squaw Creek gardens, as the Ellis area often floods – and allow developers to build private housing there. The tradeoff would be offering leased city gardens in the city’s new green zone, where flooded homes have been bought out and removed. “Why get in a car and drive five miles?” Podzimek asked, when the “greener” model would be having gardens located near the people who use them.

   Other ideas for the green zone have included soccer and baseball fields and dog parks. Podzimek said some residents want those entities in areas not prone to flooding, but he said it makes more sense to have homes and structures built away from flood zones and use the 250 acres or so of new green space for those “flood resilient” projects, such as ball fields.

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Prairiewoods eco-conference

   An ecological conference at Prairiewoods, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha, which runs Tuesday Sept. 23, through Saturday Sept. 27, offers multiple opportunities for learning more about our local food system and sustainability efforts.

  Workshops on stormwater management, Iowa’s agricultural landscape, establishing native prairie species and much, much more will be featured at the conference.

  It should be entertaining, too.

  I interviewed Joyce Rouse, a native Iowan who performs as Earth Mama and sounds like a bundle of fun.

  I also talked to Kaiulani Lee, whose one-woman play is based on the life of “Silent Spring” author Rachel Carson. She performs at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, 410 Third Ave. SE.

  Lee, a Broadway actress, has a special connection to Iowa flood victims, since her home in Virginia was recently flooded.

  She encourages Iowans to see the performance, based on her three years of research with Carson’s family, co-workers, journals and letters.

  Lee described Carson as a very private person who had to garner courage to speak out for the environmental issues that concerned her. Carson’s main message, the inter-relatedness of all life, offers insight into flooding and other environmental issues, Lee said.

 

Following is the schedule of events for the ecological conference:

Tuesday, September 23

3:30-5 p.m. Linn County Food Policy Forum

Speaker: Chris Taliga

5-6 p.m. Social, silent auction, entertainment by Bob

Ballantyne

6-7 p.m. Dinner and Fund Raiser for the Iowa Valley

Resource, Conservation and Development

(IVRC&D)

7-8:30 p.m. Film King Korn

Fee for evening: $25/per person or $45 for two

Wednesday, September 24

7:45-Noon Ecospirituality Experience

Noon Lunch

1-2:30 p.m. Establishing and Managing Native Prairie

Species and Guided Prairie Tour

3-4 p.m. Prairiewoods: An Ecological History by

Peter Hoehnle

4:30-5:30 p.m. Social, Native Food Demonstration

5:30-6:30 p.m. Dinner

6:30-7:30 p.m. Food in the Story of the Universe by

Lucy Slinger, FSPA

Fee: $20 for afternoon and evening programs and includes

lunch and dinner; or $10 for day program with lunch or $10

for the evening program with dinner.

Thursday, September 25

7:45-Noon Ecospirituality Experience

Noon Lunch

1-2:30 p.m. Sustainable Stormwater Management by

Wayne Petersen, Urban Conservationist

3-4 p.m. Your Health, Your Body, and Iowa’s

Agricultural Landscape by Laura Dowd

3-4 p.m. Food is Life, Life is Sacred, Food is Sacred by

Travis Cox

4:15-5:15 p.m. Waterways and Water Cycle of the Prairie

and Woodland Landscapes by Christine

Taliga and Peter Hoehnle

4:15-5:15 p.m. Find Abundance in Growing Food by

Fred Meyer with Backyard Abundance.

5:30-6 p.m. Dinner

7-8 p.m. The play, A Sense of Wonder, The Rachel

Carson Story by Kailulani Lee, Cedar Rapids

Museum of Art

Fee: $10 for afternoon program with lunch; $8 dinner. A

Sense of Wonder fee: $15 in advance or $18 at the door.

Friday, September 26

7:45-Noon Ecospirituality Experience

Noon-3 Lunch available for purchase throughout

the afternoon

Noon-5 p.m. Local Market Festival, includes farmers’

market, vendors, cooking demonstrations,

entertainment by Earth Mama. No fee.

4-5 p.m. Dinner

7-8:30 p.m. Earth Mama Concert and Council of All

Beings Ritual

Fee: Earth Mama concert $12/advance or $15 at the door.

Saturday, September 27

10 a.m.-3 p.m. Earth Spirit Rising with Patricia Mische

Fee: $35 includes lunch. Advance registration encouraged.

 

Conference fees:

 

Ecospirituality Retreat Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $300

Includes conference activities, lodging and

meals from Tuesday dinner – Saturday noon

Ecospirituality Experience-Commuter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $175

Includes conference activities, lunch and

dinner from Tuesday dinner – Saturday noon.

Workshop Fee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $125

Includes conference activities, lunch and

dinner from Tuesday dinner – Saturday noon.

R E G I S T RAT IO N

Come for the retreat and/or choose one or more workshops and

presentations. To register for any of the activities, contact Prairiewoods

at 319-395-6700 or e-mail at: ecospirit@prairiewoods.org. You may

also visit their Web site at: www.prairiewoods.org

 

 

Prairiewoods is located on 70 acres of woods and prairies on the

outskirts of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It provides various workshops, programs,

retreats and offers rental space for meetings.

 

 

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Urban permaculture in Cedar Rapids

A job at Clipper Wind brought Frank Cicela and his family to Cedar Rapids recently from Indiana. Wanting to meet some “kindred spirits,” Cicela decided to bring in a few experts to conduct a permaculture workshop at his new home in Cedar Rapids.

The workshop will be Saturday, May 3, and Sunday, May 4, at 3409 Seminole Valley Rd. NE.

Permaculture is the design of human habitats that have the stability, diversity and resilience of natural ecosystems. The multi-disciplinary approach integrates renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, agriculture and food systems, natural building, rainwater harvesting and urban planning, along with the economic, political and social policies that make sustainable living possible and practical.

This sustainability  allows people to begin taking food security and energy security into their own hands and into the hands of their community.

The focus of next weekend’s permaculture workshop will be on gardening. Part of the discussion will be how to garden in a three-dimensional zone, that is, using the space above, as well as the traditional design of a garden.

Quite a bit of work goes into starting such a garden, but once established, Cicela likened it to a “food forest,” that maintains itself. “Once it’s created, you just walk through and eat,” he said.  

The course – an intensive classroom and hands-on event – will be taught by three staff members of “Big Green Summer” from Fairfield.

Cicela said the workshop normally costs almost $200, plus a drive to Fairfield. This two-day course is $55 per person.

To see the schedule and register, go to: http://www.myearthwatchexperience.com/pcw/ or call (319) 832-1025.

 

 Michael Richards of Cedar Rapids, founder of  SUSTAINABLE ECOLOGICAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (S.E.E.D.) noted the following to take into consideration on the importance of urban permaculture:

 

– 95 percent of  the food on the shelves of Iowa grocery stores travels an average of 1000 miles to get to your table.

 

– A few decades ago, Iowa was close to total self-sufficiency in food supply.  Over the years, local creameries, canneries and meat processors all over Iowa have gone out of business in the “bigger is better” world of cheap energy.   

 – The opposite economic structure is now our present reality;  Energy is no longer cheap.

 So now what?      

 It is time to re-build Iowa’s local food production and local food distribution infrastructure.

 It makes no sense for the state that has the most fertile soil on earth to lack the ability to feed ourselves with local sources.

 Start in your own backyard with urban permaculture.

 We can all plant “Iowa Victory Gardens” to supply 10 to 20 percent of our household food needs in our own backyard or in neighborhood community gardens.   We can then gradually build back up the local food production and infrastructure throughout the State of Iowa to reclaim the economic foundation of a safe, healthy and abundant local food system.

 

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